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WSH@MTL: Second step forward

Habs fall 4-2, but Hudon, Mete, and Drouin impress in home preseason opener

by Steven Nechay @CanadiensMTL /

MONTREAL -- The Habs may have dropped a second preseason contest on Wednesday, but there were plenty of positives coming out of the Canadiens dressing room postgame.

Strong start

Among the Habs making their 2017-18 preseason debuts against Washington was Charles Hudon, who opened camp with a three-assist outing in Sunday's intrasquad scrimmage.

On Wednesday, he added a goal to that tally when he got the Habs on the board in the second -- this time against unfriendly faces.

Video: WSH@MTL: Hudon rips one-timer to cut deficit in half

"Since camp started our line has been showing some great things, and that continued tonight. The first period was pretty tough, but we got the momentum with those power plays in the second," described the 23-year-old, who took four shots on goal over 15:55 of ice time. "We had the puck more, and we weren't chasing the other team. It was a great first game for me, but now I need to work harder and be ready for the next one."

He would be wise to do so, now that he's caught his coach's attention.

"Charles continues to stand out, and we're extremely satisfied with his camp," underlined Claude Julien. "He's a guy who wants to stick around, and he's doing his best to make it happen. It's great for him, and we like what we're seeing."

Video: Julien on Wednesday's preseason loss against WSH

Center of attention

Jonathan Drouin meanwhile made his Habs debut at a pair of centers on Wednesday night -- hitting the Bell Centre ice for the first time at the much-debated forward position.

"It was cool, just to get a first game in after a lot of practices this summer," admitted the 22-year-old. "I thought it went well for our team, so it was a good first experience at center, and at the Bell Centre."

In his preseason debut, Drouin combined with Ales Hemsky to pick up an assist on Max Pacioretty's second-period equalizer, but split his starts in the circle, going 7-8 on faceoffs.

Video: WSH@MTL: Pacioretty taps in Hemsky's nice feed

"You're thinking so much now -- are my feet right, is my stick right? -- you almost forget you're at the faceoff dot and then suddenly the ref drops the puck," explained the first-year Hab. " I think everyone is getting used to it a bit -- [the referees are] a little bit strict right now, but maybe things will loosen up in the upcoming games."

Strict indeed, and not just in the circle.

In fact, thanks to a testy outing which saw 26 penalty minutes dished out, Drouin will hold off on rating his performance at center just yet.

Credit the low sample size.

"There wasn't much 5-on-5 tonight to be honest, so it's hard [to talk about how I did defensively], but overall I think it went well," continued the Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, QC native. "There was a bit of a learning curve coming back to the position I used to play at, but I think today was a good first step."

Video: Drouin on his first preseason game with the Canadiens

The kid is alright

The youngest player in the Canadiens lineup continues to be one of camp's most pleasant surprises, as Victor Mete continues to stick with the Habs.

Mete was also making his preseason debut on Wednesday, and shook off any teenaged nerves early on.

"The first two shifts I was a little nervous, but then I got into the swing of things and picked it up from there," acknowledged the 19-year-old defenseman. "I thought the speed was what I expected, and I was able to think of plays before they happened. That helped me throughout the game."

Video: Mete on his first preseason game with the Canadiens

But the 100th overall pick from the 2016 NHL Draft also benefited from some All-Star company on the blue line, playing a handful of shifts with Shea Weber on the night.

"It was really good," dished Mete. "Obviously he talks a lot, and he told me before the game to communicate so that we could make some plays, and I thought we did that today."

The Woodbridge, ON native notably set-up Hudon's second-period tally with a sublime feed on the power play, but was it enough to give the Habs brass some tough decisions to make in the coming days?

"I'm not too sure. I thought I had a good game, but hopefully the management thinks so too and I can get an opportunity to stick around even longer."

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